"What Really Hurt Us Is Tributaries, Irrigation ditches" Says Reno Fire

Jan 5, 2017

Steamboat ditch breaching in Caughlin Ranch on January 7, 2016.
Credit Reno Fire Chief David Cochran via Twitter

2 am Monday update:

As the Truckee River begins to level off in downtown Reno, the river is expected to crest between 6 am and noon Monday in Sparks. As of 2 am, there have been no flood-related injuries reported by REMSA, though about 400 dwellings in Washoe County and nine commercial buildings were evacuated. Our News Director Michelle Billman just spoke to Seth Williams, he's a division chief for Reno Fire, to get an update on flood conditions and to look ahead on what to expect for the morning commute.

Interview highlights:

· Downtown Reno is “looking good” and all of the water is contained within the banks. There’s localized flooding along Riverside Drive but it’s from the storm drain, not from the river overflowing. Also flooding on Edison Way.

· Steamboat Ditch breached in a number of places, causing voluntary evacuations of 400 structures.

· “We had people getting isolated by water in certain areas, so we gave them the option of helping them get out. We had people not as ambulatory as others, so we had our water rescue team put people in inflatable kayaks and essentially walk them through the flooded areas in the boat to an area of refuge where they could be picked up by a bus or other transportation.”

· Most problems occurred because people drove their cars into flooded water and needed to be rescued.

· Regular calls did not stop and there was a structure fire in downtown Reno overnight that unrelated to the flooding.

· We may be through the peak, but as the water piles up to the east, we may see more localized flooding.

· “What really hurt us is the tributaries and irrigation ditches, and there’s really no way to figure out where they’re going to break. You can predict when the high water from the Truckee and when it might overflow the banks.”

· Often water on roadways can blow manhole covers up.

· After the flood goes down, law enforcement needs to assess and mitigate damage. 

Credit Washoe County Sheriff's Office via Twitter

9:05 pm Sunday update:

Officials say two major highways across the Sierra Nevada have been partially closed because of mudslides.

The California Highway Patrol's Truckee office says all westbound lanes of Interstate 80 near Donner Lake Road in Donner Lake have been closed indefinitely because of a large mudslide Sunday evening. It says it's unclear when the highway will reopen and that the clean-up will take hours.

The California Department of Transportation says the westbound lanes of Highway 50 near Kyburz are also blocked by a mudslide. It's not clear when that highway is expected to reopen.

The following information is compiled from press releases and social media posts from emergency management officials across several counties and municipalities as of 8:40 pm:

WASHOE COUNTY:

Washoe County has seen significant precipitation, including this rainfall data from the past 24 hours:

Galena Creek: 4.89 inches

Rhodes Road: 2.96 inches

Hidden Valley: 1.26 inches

Rancho San Rafael: 1.22 inches

Please see attached rainfall map.

Several homes have been evacuated at this time. Residents in the Quilici Street, Autumn Hills Drive and North Edison Way areas should evacuate.

The Autumn Hills Drive area is also affected by a sewer lift station failure that has created a health hazard. Voluntary evacuations are in place in the area bound by Autumn Hills Drive, Amston Road, Huffaker Lane and Offenhauser Drive. Please see the attached map for evacuation areas. All streets on the map are in the evacuation zone.

Current evacuation information by street is listed on Washoe County’s website.

The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) is offering free transit rides from now through midnight on January 10, 2017. People should check www.RTCWashoe.com for detours or cancelation of routes.

CITY OF SPARKS:

Due to widespread flooding, the City has now closed an additional portion of the industrial area west of McCarran Boulevard in Sparks.

Marietta Way east to McCarran Boulevard, between Greg Street and Glendale Avenue is now closed.

Road closures remain in place at McCarran Boulevard between I-80 and Mill Street.

Southbound off-ramp exits at Sparks Boulevard and Vista Boulevard are also closed.

Police and barricades are in place preventing access.

Additionally, south bound traffic on Pyramid Highway is being detoured to La Posada due to closure at Eagle Canyon/ La Posada / Pyramid Highway Intersection.

Roads closure will be in place for at least 24 hours or more until assessments can be made that it is safe to return.

The City has established a flood preparedness hotline for general flood information at 775-353-5555 for the next 24-hour period.  The public can also dial 211 for regional flood information.

CARSON CITY:

The Emergency Operations Center is staffed overnight with 11 mission critical functions supported. The Carson City Manager and Board of Supervisors have directed all non-emergency City employees to stay home from work and off the roadways on Monday, January 9, 2017 due to the declared State of Emergency. The following Carson City agencies and facilities are closed on Monday, January 9, 2017: • Blackwell Park • Brunswick Canyon Access • Carson City Hall • Carson City Health and Human Services • Carson City Library 

The evacuation shelter at 411 S. Saliman is accepting residents who are experiencing flooding or loss of utilities and will operate for the next 24 hours, or as long as needed.

Public Works crews have been working around the clock to clear storm drains, drop inlets and ditches throughout Carson City. While there is significant water on the roadways no structures have been flooded.

The rapid rise of the Carson River has begun and the National Weather Service in Reno (NWS) is predicting the Carson River will be above flood status sometime between 11:00 AM on Monday, January 9th and 3:00 AM Tuesday, January 10th.

Current incident information can be found at www.carson.org/flood. Residents are encouraged to call the Flood Hotline for non-life-threatening reporting and questions at 887-2355.

STOREY COUNTY:

In conjunction with the ongoing flood emergency and to better ensure the safety of our employees, Storey County has announced the closure of all non-Public Safety Offices on Monday. Storey County Manager Pat Whitten explained that while the decision to temporarily close normal government service offices is never taken lightly, we must act in the best interests of safety as well as recognize the fact that we historically see minimal demand for services under the conditions we are experiencing.

As a safety precaution NDOT has closed Highway 342 through Silver City. Through mutual aid agreements, Storey County will handle fire and law enforcement calls for service in Silver City. It is unknown when the road will be reopened at this time.

Road closures posted earlier are still in effect thru Monday morning. USA Parkway closed by NDOT between Electric Ave. and Denmark Dr. due to gravel in road, but detour routes are established to all businesses at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center (TRI) for access.

Six Mile Canyon damaged, closed and patrolled by Sheriff.

Cercle De La Cerese in Rainbow Bend in Lockwood is damaged and closed.

Additional field crews called to Lockwood and Mark Twain response.

State Route 341 Geiger Grade and Truck Route open.

All senior centers and schools closed on Monday. School district is contacting parents and posting closures. County offices closed Monday except emergency and flood response staff.

Emergency Coordinating Center is in 24-hour active status. Contact NVFlood17@storeycounty.org and 775-847-INFO (4636) for updates.

LYON COUNTY:

In Lyon County, officials have received many reports of flooding, rock slides, debris flows and road closures throughout eastern California and western Nevada. Up to 5 inches of rain has fallen in the Sierra and the foothills of western Nevada, but most reports have been between 1 and 3 inches. Melting snow is adding to the excessive runoff. Moderate to heavy rain will continue into the evening. Additional rain fall amounts of up to 2 inches are possible before the precipitation begins to taper off late tonight. This additional rain on saturated soils will run off quickly and add to the flooding impacts already being felt.

At this time, Lyon County is reporting no fatalities or injuries, no evacuations, no shelters being opened, and 8 structures have been confirmed as damaged with 200-400 Threatened.

Schools closed Monday include: Dayton High School, Dayton Intermediate, Dayton Elementary School, Sutro Elementary School, Riverview Elementary School

In Dayton, the following roads are closed: Dayton Toll Road, Branstetter, Ricci Road, Rosepeak Road, Rivers Road, Lower Portion of Sandifer.

The following roads are marked water over roadway: Pinecone, V & T Way, Mark Twain Way, Flowery, Champions Road.

DOUGLAS COUNTY:

In Douglas County an evacuation center is open for Aspen Mobile Home Pk. The community center at 1329 Waterloo street in Gardnerville.

To reach our flood hotline call (775) 782-9099 or (775)783-6404 from 7am-3am 1/8/2017

Call 2-1-1 if you have non-emergency questions and someone will pick up the line to answer questions on local and regional events.

For more information, visit http://www.douglascountynv.gov . Hit the Flood Warning Bar for current alerts and information.

Current Road Closures: Nye Lane, Centerville between Hwy 88 and Foothill, Dressler Lane from Hwy 88 to the Ranchos, Muller Lane, Genoa Lane, Powerdam Rd, Mottsville

Areas Flooded and of Concern: Foothill between Jacks Valley and Genoa, East Valley, Tillman, Kim and Vicky

PLACER COUNTY:

With the worst of the storm flooding still left to come, and many North Lake Tahoe area residents without power, Placer County and the American Red Cross has opened an emergency shelter tonight at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach.

Service animals will be the only pets the shelter can accommodate.

While the amount of rainfall in the Sierra is consistent with weather forecasts it’s arriving later than expected, meaning local rivers and streams will hit peak flood levels in the dark evening hours, at around 10 p.m.

“This storm is far from over and there are more in line behind it,” said John McEldowney, Placer County emergency services manager. “We urge anyone facing the threat of flooding to take precautions and find safe shelter right away.”

The North Tahoe Event Center[northtahoeevents.com] is located at 8318 North Lake Boulevard in Kings Beach. Shelter coordinators can be reached at 530-546-7249.

SUSANVILLE, CA:

A shelter for those displaced by floodwaters and weather will be opened at Jensen Hall in the Lassen County Fairgrounds as of 8 p.m. this evening according to Lassen County Office of Emergency Services Chief Eric Ewing. Expect occasional rain to continue for the next several hours. its 48 there now with a predicted low around 36. 

4:40 pm Sunday update:

More than 1,000 homes have been evacuated in Reno as much of the Sierra's eastern front braces for the worst flooding in a decade.

Emergency officials say residents voluntarily evacuated a total of 1,300 homes in a south Reno neighborhood Sunday as the Truckee River began to leave its banks and drainage ditches started to overflow south of Interstate 80.

Many area roads have been closed, but no injuries have been reported.

The National Weather Service says the storm that has already dropped several inches of rain in the area is tracking pretty much as they expected.

Truckee River flows should peak about 2 feet above flood stage in downtown Reno by Sunday evening.

They are forecast to crest about 6 feet above flood stage Monday morning in neighboring Sparks, where several feet of water is expected to flood an industrial area where 25,000 people work.

Schools are closed throughout the Reno-Sparks area on Monday. Authorities say they expect Reno-Tahoe International Airport to remain open.

The flood warning continues into Tuesday.

1 pm Sunday update:

Crews are set up at the emergency shelter at Wooster High School in Reno, in preparation for possible evacuations.

In Washoe County, there are also emergency shelters for residents and small pets at Sparks High School and Natchez Elementary in Wadsworth.

Nancy Leuenhagen is with the county. She says residents can also take livestock to the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center on Wells Avenue in Reno. She urges citizens to avoid any areas along the Truckee River at all costs.

The Peppermill Casino Resort in Reno is also offering rooms for evacuees starting $39. Proof of residence is required for that rate.

An emergency shelter has been set up in Carson City at the Church of Latter Day Saints on North Saliman Street.

In Storey County, possible evacuation shelters are designated in case of need, including Lockwood Senior Center, Virginia City Senior Center, Virginia City Middle School gym, and for Mark Twain residents Dayton High School. Those have not yet been opened.

Washoe County sent out a press release at 11:45 Sunday and we've excerpted some key points:

Flood events are unpredictable, and officials are keeping an eye on downtown Reno, the Steamboat Creek area including low-lying areas of Damonte Ranch, the Hidden Valley subdivision and nearby areas, and the Rosewood Lakes area. The Reno-Tahoe International Airport is now forecast to flood less than projected, but this does not mean that the flood risk has decreased in other areas.

The City of Reno, the City of Sparks and Washoe County have closed all public parks located along the Truckee River.

Temperatures and snow elevations are changing rapidly. Snowmelt is unpredictable and is causing water runoff to go in unexpected directions.

Evacuation centers are open at Sparks High, Wooster High and Natchez Elementary in Wadsworth.

First responders are also urging the public to stay away from the Truckee River. If first responders have to perform river rescues, it will divert valuable resources away from the flood response.

The flood waters are extremely dangerous. Flash floods can happen without warning. The water is fast and cold, which can be a deadly combination. Hypothermia can set in quickly. Please treat any flood water as contaminated water, as it could include sewage, fertilizer and other contaminants. Please keep pets out of the water, too, as they could absorb contaminants and transfer them to humans.

Do not drive in floodwaters. If you cannot see the ground, you don’t know the water’s depth. The road could be washed out, or you could get stuck in debris. Downed power lines could also pose an electrocution risk. Don’t drown, turn around.

People are urged to follow the conversation on social media using the hashtag #NVFlood17, or by calling 211 for information. 

 

8 pm Saturday update:

Governor Brian Sandoval has declared a state of emergency for the state of Nevada, following emergency declarations by Washoe, Douglas, Lyon, and Storey counties, along with Reno, Sparks, Carson City,  the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Those declarations allow municipalities to request state and federal resources in advance of an emergency situation.

Washoe County Manager John Slaughter says that's been critical already.

“We’ve never seen the weather service so certain about a flood,” Slaughter explains, “so that gave us plenty of time. The resources we were going to be asking for from the state, those take sometimes 12, perhaps 24, hours to mobilize, to get them on the ground, so having that done ahead of time, we’ve made that request already. That gets the things that we need here before we’re in dire need.”

Slaughter accompanied several other local and state officials on a tour of three locations they expect to receive significant flooding in Reno and Sparks. They include: downtown Reno, near the Truckee River; West Reno near the White Fir community, which is behind the Patagonia Distribution Center; and industrial Sparks.

Governor Brian Sandoval was on that tour.

“This isn’t an if; this is going to happen,” he said, “and we do have the benefit of knowing that it’s going to happen and being able to prepare for this.”

Bob Leighton, a division chief for Reno Fire, explained that much of the flooding will occur overnight, when visibility is low, but also when most people are in their homes.

Governor Brian Sandoval meets with emergency management officials to tour flood-prone areas in Washoe County.

He also stressed that the department is prepared for water rescues.

“Well, in past floods, what we’ve had is not necessarily water rescues from the swift water, but people being stranded in still water that’s higher than they can get out,” Leighton said. “In past floods, we’ve done several rescues of people being trapped in their houses or driving their cars into water. There is a high likelihood that we’re going to have to do that, but we hope that the public is aware of the danger of the water and we don’t have any rescues.”

One resounding message from all of the emergency management officials has been to stay away from the Truckee River, a sentiment that Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve echoed.

“People want to come down here and be spectators when those levels get so high, but we have to stress to people to please stay away from the river. It moves very fast, it’s incredibly cold, and that’s a deadly combination.”

Updates on predicted flood locations and times:

The National Weather Service is predicting that the Truckee River in downtown Reno will peak between 4 and 9 pm Sunday, cresting at 12.8 feet. This will cause major flooding with serious damage from Mogul to Highway 395. Trailer parks along the river could have serious impacts. Idlewild and Wingfield Parks will be flooded up to six feet deep. Downtown Reno itself will flood by about one foot.

Truckee River at Vista Boulevard in Sparks is predicted to crest at 21.2 feet, causing moderate to major flooding from Highway 395 to Nixon including Sparks, Lockwood, Tracy and Wadsworth. Sparks industrial area could be flooded up to 6 feet and officials are watching the airport closely. That area is expected to hit the major flood stage between 2 and 4 pm today Sunday.

For Carson River at Carson City, forecasters are predicting that the river will rise rapidly Sunday and peak at 3 pm Monday at 11.6 feet. There will be major flooding on roads and highways, with homes flooded from Genoa to Fort Churchill, especially in Carson Valley. Transportation will be difficult and Highway 395 may be closed near Stephanie Way.

The East Carson River at Markleeville is expected to peak at the moderate flood stage at 4 pm Monday, causing flooding for homes, businesses, and schools in the lower portions of Minden, Garnerville, Centerville, Genoa, and the Washoe Indian Reservation.

The Susan River at Susanville is predicted by the National Weather Service to rise rapidly Sunday and reach near the flood stage peak at 9 pm Sunday, cresting at about 12 feet and causing local flooding.

Washoe County Shelters:

Wooster High School and Sparks High School were activated as the primary regional shelters Saturday at noon.

12:52 pm Saturday update:

The Washoe County School District has closed all schools for Monday, January 9. School officials say they will re-assess weather impacts in the Incline Village area, and contact those families if Incline Village schools will be safe to open on Monday.

Storey County has officially declared a state of emergency. Officials announced on twitter that they convened an emergency meeting to make the declaration today, joining Washoe County and the cities of Reno and Sparks.

County officials and weather forecasters are saying this weekend's weather events are more likely to mirror those of 2005, and not the devastating flood of 1997. 

"From our briefings and listening to people from the Truckee River Flood Management Authority, this is very, very similar to the 2005 flood," says Washoe County Communications Director Nancy Leuenhagen.

Officials are urging residents to stay home if possible, and to clear any debris that may be blocking the flow of water in ditches, culverts and property in order to avoid additional localized flooding.

2:50 pm Friday update:

Washoe County, along with the cities of Reno and Sparks, have declared a state of emergency in preparation for this weekend’s predicted flooding of the region. Our contributor Bob Conrad reports that those declarations allow jurisdictions to seek more resources to deal with flood impacts.

The Truckee River is expected to peak about mid-day on Sunday, and emergency managers are saying that this flood could be as bad or worse than the 2005 flood.

“We believe that this is a 2005-like event, so if you were in the area in 2005 and your property flooded or your business had issues, presume that that will happen again. If you’re not sure, ask your neighbors.”

That’s Aaron Kenneston, the Washoe County Emergency Manager. He says that Sparks is expected to be hit the hardest, particularly in industrial areas.

“The way the valley is shaped, that is the funnel point, if you will, of all water leaving the Truckee Meadows to head through Mustang and cown towards Pyramid Lake, so that’s where it backs up first and the industrial area is known to be a flood-prone area.”

Officials are warning people to stay home over the weekend and to stay away from the river.

Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District crews fill sandbags for residents ahead of predicted flooding.
Credit TMFPD

5:35 pm Thursday update:  

The winter storm that has dumped more than 6 feet of snow in the upper elevations of the Sierra is now raising flood concerns for Reno, Sparks and the Carson City area.

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch effective Saturday night through Monday morning throughout the region. The City of Reno, Washoe County, and the City of Sparks all have multiple sandbag locations. 

Emergency management officials are warning that as the storm continues, and gets warmer and wetter, it will cause flooding across the region.

"There are three points that you just have to look at: Sparks industrial area, the Steamboat Creek drainage through Hidden Valley, and, of course, the downtown corridor through Reno,” explains Ed Evans, a hydrogeologist for the Truckee River Flood Management Authority.

Evans works closely with Jay Aldean who runs the agency.

"I would take this storm seriously,” Aldean says. “And keep in mind that this flood event is not going to be over at the conclusion of the weekend. The storm is going to continue to generate moisture and water, and we don't know what's going to happen."

Both say that there's a significant amount of moisture in the atmosphere creating what's called an "atmospheric river" which is causing new precipitation to fall. And with warming temperatures over the coming days, recent snowfall could quickly melt.

Washoe County Sheriff Chuck Allen is urging all residents to stay home this weekend if possible, as heavy rain and snowfall could lead to unexpected challenges.

"When you're talking about Mother Nature, there's nothing predictable about her,” Allen says, “so we don't know what type of incidents that we'll be sent to, and the worst scenario we can have is an avalanche or some sort of rescue where we have to factor in risking our own staff members' lives."

Allen says the sheriff's office will respond to all calls for service, but with unpredictable weather, there's no way to tell how long it will be before help can arrive.

He suggests that residents take advantage of clearer weather on Friday.

"Take the time to fuel up your vehicles, go to the grocery store, get those errands that you would normally do on the weekend completed. And rent a few movies, and stay home and stay safe."

Washoe County officials say they are meeting with local and state agencies Friday to determine if and how emergency shelters will be utilized.